Senior scientist Dr Louise Weaver is a member of ESR’s Water, Waste and Social Systems Group.
She has been involved on a number of groundwater research projects that support both the Our Land and Water and the New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenges.
Her groundwater research is focused on identifying how land use, such as farming and waste disposal, affects groundwater quality. Her work frequently assists local councils and communities in developing strategies to reduce or eliminate contaminants in their water systems.
Louise is leading a team at ESR investigating microbial diversity in groundwater and how it can be used to assess groundwater health. The Groundwater Health Index project aims to identify the microbial and macroinvertebrate diversity that occurs in groundwater and develop a tool to identify the “health” of the aquifer from the diversity present. The long term goal is an inexpensive and effective tool for assessing the health of groundwater systems.
Louise is also part of a Marsden project “Who’s doing what?” investigating the microbial processes occurring in groundwater when stimulated with methane to drive denitrification. This project links with an ESR project investigating groundwater mitigation strategies, including the use of methane to enhance removal of nitrate in oxic groundwater systems. The Marsden project will use stable isotope probing of RNA to identify which groups of organisms are active in methane driven denitrification.
Another exciting project Louise is involved in is a MBIE Smart Ideas project “Life Processes of our Groundwater” led by Dr Kim Handley from the University of Auckland. The project will identify the microbial communities present in groundwater aquifers across New Zealand and where a contaminant gradient occurs identify key diversity shifts that occur.
After leaving university, Louise worked as a drinking-water microbiologist and then an environmental microbiologist before going on to earn her doctorate at the University of Portsmouth, UK. She went on to serve in two postdoctorate roles at the University of Southampton.
After completing her second postdoctorate role she began to look for her next professional challenge and applied for a role at ESR.
“When I was selected for the position what really excited me was the opportunity to be involved with research that has practical applications and the potential to really make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.
She says working within ESR also offers an opportunity to contribute her expertise to wider initiatives.
“Right now I am part of a team within our group that’s being funded by the Ministry of Health to analyse how to optimise response to microbial disease outbreaks. The research will lead to a set of guidelines to help health authorities, councils and businesses put good processes in place to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak.”